Customarily, every year, the family of Jesus went to the Temple to celebrate Passover.
Hey Aunt Mary! Hey Uncle Joe!
Come on! Don’t be late! We can almost hear the family calling to them.
Jesus! Jesus! Come on! We’re over here! As the boys went running off together, while the whole caravan travelled up to the Temple together. The whole family trekked together, the congregation on foot. From the middle-aged ones with too much work to do, to the teenagers with other places they’d probably rather be, to the older folks with memories they wanted to relive and share for days and days, to the little ones have energy for days and days. It was at least a three-day journey by foot with celebrating, eating, singing, worshiping along the way. That’s a lot of food that was prepared.
The song leader would start singing: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?” and all of the caravan would join in, “My help comes from you, maker of heaven, Creator of the earth.”
Line after Line.
Song after song.
Psalm after psalm.
And this ritual was so deeply embedded into the tradition that we today know which psalms were sung on the way UP to the Temple, that is psalms 120 through 134. And then which psalms were sung on the way back home, psalms 135-150.
Five times, in our reading today, does Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph were devout. Devout followers of first century of Judaism who went to the Temple three times a year – Passover, Sukkoth, that is the Festival of Booths, and Shavuot, that is the Festival of Weeks. The holy family taught Jesus faith. As the caravan arrived in Jerusalem, I can almost hear Mary telling the story:
The first time, Joseph and I brought Jesus to the Temple, it was for dedication. It was the purification with the turtledoves. With it just being 40 days after Jesus was born, I was tender and sore. But I was amazed by all of these incredible visitors who echoed the same God news I had heard! First, there were the shepherds, at the stable that birth night. They told of angels, who sent them to see our son! At the Temple, it was the righteous and devout Simeon, who had been waiting for the revealed Messiah along with all of us. God had told him, he would see the Messiah before he died. Simeon offered blessing and prophecy to Jesus and me. His life had waited for that moment. What wisdom he had! Then, Anna, the prophetess, who praised God as she saw Jesus, knowing that he would redeem our people. She was so wise!
The women surrounded Mary to hear more and more. She wouldn’t yet know about the Temple visit during the last week of Jesus’ life, when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers. Mary would only ponder, share with her family, and teach the faith she and Joseph had learned. She too grew in wisdom and favor. That was part of the angel Gabriel’s greeting to her.
A faith-filled home and family is what made it so comfortable for Jesus to be with the scholars and scribes. Jesus chose to be in the Temple. He felt respected and welcomed to wrestle with his own questions of faith. They were willing to sit to teach and build relationships to find meaning in the midst of world of brokenness and challenge. Is this not like the body of believers, the church, we know? Where else do you find 8-year old’s and 80-year old’s sharing the peace? Where is the regular place in our community where across generations, we build relationships? We look to see Jesus in one another – sometimes an infant child, sometimes a 12-year-old Jesus, sometimes a 30-year-old Jesus, sometimes a middle-aged Jesus, sometimes an aging Jesus.
You could be so many other places – why are you here? We can almost imagine those looking for Jesus asking as they help Mary and Joseph. Why not skipping rocks or climbing trees or hiding out? Even though, they raised him in the faith community, it is still surprising to find Jesus there. He came to the Temple to learn and be taught. Jesus came to ask questions and be curious together. If we are so surprised that we raise up children, young people, even ourselves in faith and then they come back to the faith, we might be the ones who are lost. We ought to ask good questions about what we are teaching and how are we teaching. Do we know our customs and traditions? Is there space for us to grow in wisdom and in favor?
It is easy for us to become hard on Mary and Joseph. How could they have lost their child? Parenting is hard! Even when you are parenting Jesus, son of God! But it is hard for parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all those who love children. It has always been – and it is particularly hard when you are deep in the heartache, the wrapping paper, the toys boxes, and rolled eyes of raising those children. You are raising up that part of wisdom.
Today, we had two stories of children growing up in wisdom and favor, Jesus and Samuel. However, this is not merely a question for our children. This a concern ongoing for each of us. How are we growing? Not just where did we grow in our faith last year, but how is our faith alive and moving now and here?
At the precipice of this new year, we may find ourselves eager to go into a new year ready to leave behind the challenges of 2018. We may find ourselves perfectly satisfied with 2018. There may be those we have loved who have moved into the more immediate presence of the Lord in this year and are remembering. And others who families who have welcomed new members this year. As a church family, we also find ourselves looking into the new year.
Let me invite you into the wisdom of the boy Jesus, drew close to the customs of the faith his parents gave him, and then still transforms our world even today! The twelve-year-old Jesus teaches us that our faith wisdom in the year to comes in four places, our WORSHIP, STUDY, PONDERING, REACHING OUT.
As we seek to grow in wisdom and favor, this is not a chose your own adventure story or a two of four ain’t bad! We need the balance like a healthy diet.
The caravan of extended family began with those psalms and corporate worship, all together. Jesus found his way to the study of the Torah, the scriptures. Jesus was lost in the presence of God; he was almost left behind. And then, as he was found by his parents, he returned home and to do the mission he was called to.
Are you regularly in worship and connecting with others in meaningful adoration, thanksgiving, confession, supplication of God in addition to your personal worship?
Do we simply read the Bible the same way we might have read it as children or even that we were comfortable reading it ten years ago, as so many adult Christians do?
Have you made space to ponder God’s mysteries while experiencing God’s presence without definite answers?
After being apart from the world, do you return to put your hands and heart to action?
How about our wisdom? We know that it grows in fits and spurts. Our life stages give us some natural ways to imagine that gather knowledge in school as elementary children. And then we begin to reason in more abstract ways after middle school years. Our faith wisdom like, Jesus, comes from where we need to discover and claim faith for ourselves as our confirmands are doing. They ask some of the best questions. I loved when they asked me a few weeks ago why celebrate communion as a sacrament, instead of some of commands and declarations in the Bible. (Ask me after worship, if you are curious, too). But we do not graduate with confirmation! We are seeking God at every stage. Our faith coursework happens on an individualized timeline. As you make space for pondering the mysteries of God, at each stage new wisdom and favor may be yours . We never finish seeking God. God is always seeking you!
So, whether you are preparing the traditional pork and sauerkraut, collard green and corn bread, or like us, jambalaya, I hope you will pause to reflect on where you have been this year. Give thanks to God for those places that created wisdom. Offer up to God those places that are still look for resurrection and reconciliation. Celebrate and thank those people who have been an important part of your year. And prayerfully discern where God is calling you to grow in wisdom and favor in 2019.
May you know the foundation of customs of faith and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make it fully your own.
This is the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Thanks be to God, Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: I Samuel 2:18-20; 26
Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home.
Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 2:41-52
Now every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, December 30 ~ Saturday, January 5
Sunday: “Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy wearing a linen ephod. His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” 2 Samuel 2:18-19. Samuel had the regular support of his mother with a new robe. Pray for all those who serve God today, that they too will have regular support.
Monday: “Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, Hannah, and say, “May the LORD repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the LORD”; and then they would return to their home.” 2 Samuel 2:20. Where can you thank God this year for answering your prayers or being present in your life?
Tuesday: “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with the people.” 2 Samuel 2:26. May this New Year be filled with ways in which you grow in stature and favor with the LORD and people.
Wednesday: “Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.” Luke 2: 41-42. Consider that the family of Jesus had a regular of habit of being faithful. Jesus felt comfortable in a place of faith. In this new year, consider how you will establish habits of faith, so that you make space for God’s regular presence in your life.
Thursday: “When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Luke 2: 45-47. Consider where Jesus amazes you by doing exactly what Jesus said that he would do.
Friday: “Jesus said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49. Jesus surprised his family and continues to surprise us today with his faithfulness in the midst of our confusion. We can depend on Jesus’ promises!
Saturday: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” Luke 2:52. Pray for the children in your life that they may grow in wisdom and favor.